Can Your Design Team Actually Handle More Work?

October 3rd


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It’s neither a pretty word nor great for your bottom line. But how does it happen?

And perhaps more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening so that your company keeps growing?

A well-organized and highly productive team can face many challenges with ease, but having a team that’s high-strung, stressed, overworked and underpaid is a recipe for disaster.

There are plenty of factors that can cause burnout or otherwise prevent your team from handling more than they’re actually capable of handling. The good news is that all of these things can be avoided so that you can focus on healthy (and fast) growth.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your team running in tip-top shape…

Signs Your Team is Close to Burnout

It’s important to take stock of your team’s stability before loading on new tasks. If they exhibit any of the following symptoms (based on a list by co.tribute), you will need to make some heavy adjustments before moving forward:

An increase in sick days or signs of illness at work – Mental stress can cause physical illness, so if your team is suddenly and frequently coming down with the flu during important projects, take this as an indicator that the workload is too much.

Less socializing or an increase in conflict – Not every team is full of social butterflies, especially if it’s made up of introverts, but if there’s a rise in conflict between team members or just generally less jovial behavior, it could be a sign of burnout.

More overtime or working longer hours – When a big project comes in, a little extra effort here and there is expected to meet deadlines. But if your team is constantly pulling all-nighters, working into the weekend, or otherwise compromising a normal work-life balance to get things done, it may be time to reduce the workload.

Decrease in quality of work — You hired your team because they are the best of the best, but when deadlines are being missed or you keep finding errors and sloppy behavior that haven’t been there before, the flame may be getting close to snuffed out.

Showing signs of exhaustion – If your team is frequently yawning, binging on coffee, zoning out during meetings, or forgetting simple tasks, there may be issues with productivity if you continue to pile on new projects. Watch for physical and mental behaviors that would indicate that they’re not ready for more work.

Remember that these signs can come and go in varying degrees of severity depending on the project at hand. Some companies experience busy seasons and slow seasons, and you will probably notice more of these during the busy season.

But if these signs are becoming “the norm” for your team, even during slow months, that’s a problem. Growth requires the ability to be flexible, problem solve, and come up with new ideas on short notice.

Burnout prevents all of those things from happening.

How to Correct Overload and Promote Growth

Whether you’re trying to recover from burnout so you can grow, or your team is doing great and you simply want to avoid burnout, there are a few strategies you can implement to keep moving forward without trouble or hesitation.

Manage Your Team Well

Look for underlying problems with your management – Sometimes the problem is not with your team, it’s with your management. Unrealistic deadlines, sales teams that promise too much, or staff that simply don’t understand the work it takes to do a project can all put a damper on growth. Make sure everyone in the company understands the expectations of each department so there’s no added pressure from above.

Say no to clients and projects that don’t move you toward your goals – We’ve written about this before, but we’ll say it again: you don’t have to say yes to every client, even if they pay. If the deadlines are unreasonable or the workload is consistently sending your team into overdrive, consider dumping the client for someone who will respect and support your team’s expertise.

Give your team time to learn the things that they love – Learning is a key component to growth, but it’s often overlooked in favor of taking on more work. But the more skilled your team becomes at what they do, the better they will be at getting things done faster. Not to mention you can charge more and pursue higher quality clients if your team is made up entirely of experts. Utilize each individual’s skills and give people time off to attend conferences and events that will help progress their career.

And most Importantly…

Utilize Third Party Apps and Tools

Use available technology to take burdens off your team – One of the biggest things you can do to foster growth is to automate as much of the work as possible. If your team is bogged down with small details that a robot could do, they won’t have time to problem solve the big issues when they arise. This can lead to burnout because they’re always doing too much. The best solution is to simplify your projects by using third-party apps that do the basics.

You can always find a service like we offer here at Offsprout that allows you build something quickly (like a website) so your team can focus on more important things.

For example, services like Slack are designed to eliminate email and create a more dynamic communication experience, so if your team’s email inboxes are being overwhelmed, you may consider using a third-party app like this to get rid of email altogether.

Lifehacker has a list of top project management tools that can help your team keep things organized and work efficiently so that projects don’t get overlooked, including tools like Ora, Trello and Asana.

Related: The Best Project Management Tools for Web Designers

Or you can use something like Zapier, which will integrate all of the above to help you accomplish the tasks you need to do in record time.

Remember that there are plenty of other businesses out there that exist to help you do your job. There’s no excuse for leveraging too many tasks on a few team members when you can hire out support.

Final Thoughts

Growth isn’t always an easy formula, but one thing that can prevent you from moving forward at the rate you want is team burnout.

Burnout can take many different forms, from disengagement, to conflict, to boredom, or even physical illness. But that doesn’t have to spell doom for your company.

Dedicate some time to making sure your team is well taken care of by saying no to projects that prevent them from doing their best work, give your team time to shine and learn the things they need to learn.

And, most importantly, use any and every tool at your disposal to take work off their shoulders so they can do what they do best.


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